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Walsingham’s Plumber

Patrick Collinson: John Bossy, 5 July 2001

Under the Molehill: An Elizabethan Spy Story 
by John Bossy.
Yale, 189 pp., £18.95, May 2001, 0 300 08400 5
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... for example, in his reaction to Charles Nicholl’s intriguing account in The Reckoning of what Christopher Marlowe may have been up to in the years and months preceding his violent death. Under the Molehill strengthens the impression gained by other historians (myself included) that often there appeared to be not one but two governments in Elizabethan ...

Fetch the Chopping Knife

Charles Nicholl: Murder on Bankside, 4 November 2021

... that it was in part written by the up-and-coming Shakespeare. Other writers proposed include Christopher Marlowe, Thomas Kyd and, most recently, Thomas Watson. According to a contemporary account of his death in 1593, Marlowe himself was knifed while playing backgammon. I have sometimes wondered if this ...

There are some limits Marlowes just won’t cross

Christopher Tayler: Banville’s Marlowe, 3 April 2014

The Black-Eyed Blonde 
by Benjamin Black.
Mantle, 320 pp., £16.99, February 2014, 978 1 4472 3668 9
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... to think perhaps you worked in bed, like Marcel Proust,’ a waiting femme fatale says when Philip Marlowe hits his office in The Big Sleep (1939). Marlowe’s response: ‘Who’s he?’ ‘A French writer,’ she says, ‘a connoisseur in degenerates. You wouldn’t know him.’ She couldn’t have said the same to Philo ...

Fetch the Scissors

Colin Burrow: B.S. Johnson, 11 April 2013

Well Done God! Selected Prose and Drama of B.S. Johnson 
edited by Jonathan Coe, Philip Tew and Julia Jordan.
Picador, 471 pp., £25, February 2013, 978 1 4472 2710 6
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by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 183 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0036 9
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Albert Angelo 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 180 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0037 6
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Christie Malry’s Own Double-Entry 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 187 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0035 2
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House Mother Normal 
by B.S. Johnson.
Picador, 204 pp., £12.99, February 2013, 978 1 4472 0038 3
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... when you finally get to the page in question, you discover that the stabbing is actually that of Christopher Marlowe in an East End pub in 1593. This was famously the result of a squabble over the ‘reckoning’ (or, the bill). Johnson simply couldn’t get away from the reckoning of accounts; but the pain of the knife and the threat of death are what ...

Bereft and Beruffed

Michael Dobson: Shakespeare’s Last Plays, 6 June 2019

Shakespeare’s Lyric Stage: Myth, Music and Poetry in the Last Plays 
by Seth Lerer.
Chicago, 276 pp., £20.50, November 2018, 978 0 226 58254 2
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... the issue of genre with questions of biography. Given the fates that overtook his colleagues Christopher Marlowe and Thomas Kyd in 1593 and 1594 – the one stabbed to death at 29, the other eventually dying after an extensive and painful interrogation – you could argue that Shakespeare might have felt that he had been living on borrowed time ...

Brooke’s Benefit

Anthony Powell, 16 April 1981

... of the time. The real disaster came when he entered King’s School, Canterbury (alma mater of Christopher Marlowe, Somerset Maugham, Patrick Leigh-Fermor), from which Brooke ran away in the first week. He was sent back. The second week he ran away again. The second withdrawal marked the termination of his residence there, which had lasted less than a ...

The Verity of Verity

Marilyn Butler, 1 August 1996

Essays in Appreciation 
by Christopher Ricks.
Oxford, 363 pp., £25, March 1996, 0 19 818344 5
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... Christopher Ricks’s new book makes available many of his distinguished lectures given in the Eighties and Nineties. The essays retain a sense of occasion, and of a star performance on Ricks’s part, while the book has been designed with the aggressive sobriety that signals a class act. Presumably it was the author who decreed that the title, in defiance of commercial logic, should give no clue to the contents, and who dispensed with routine enticements such as a subtitle and Preface, so that there’s no short-cut to finding what the book is about ...

Wilderness of Tigers

Michael Neill: Shakespeare’s Latin, 19 March 2015

Shakespeare and Classical Antiquity 
by Colin Burrow.
Oxford, 281 pp., £16.99, September 2013, 978 0 19 968479 3
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... that would be essential to dramatic invention. By contrast with university-educated rivals like Christopher Marlowe and John Marston, or the erudite autodidact Ben Jonson, Shakespeare owed most of his classical knowledge to his education in a provincial grammar school; but, in spite of Jonson’s condescending reference to his ‘small Latin and less ...


Charles Nicholl: ‘The Shakespeare Circle’, 19 May 2016

The Shakespeare Circle: An Alternative Biography 
edited by Paul Edmondson and Stanley Wells.
Cambridge, 358 pp., £18.99, October 2015, 978 1 107 69909 0
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... by specific occasion or active collaboration to have known Shakespeare personally, which relegates Christopher Marlowe to a glowering presence on the sidelines, and also excludes that engaging gadfly Thomas Nashe, though both had a decisive stylistic influence on Shakespeare in the 1590s, and both must surely have known him. I would also have liked more ...

All change. This train is cancelled

Iain Sinclair: The Dome, 13 May 1999

... original sketch of the Greenwich Dome’ are twinned with ‘a sketch design for a dome by Sir Christopher Wren’. The puny scale of St Paul’s Cathedral is set against the enclosed acres of the tent on Bugsby’s Marshes. ‘This awesome structure dwarfs the famous domes of history.’ But, walking around nautical Greenwich, the first thing the visitor ...

A Match for Macchu Picchu

Christopher Reid, 4 June 1981

Translating Neruda: The Way to Macchu Picchu 
by John Felstiner.
Stanford, 284 pp., $18.50, December 1980, 0 8047 1079 1
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The Oxford Book of Verse in English Translation 
edited by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 608 pp., £12.95, October 1980, 0 19 214103 1
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... these anomalies on his or her own. But what are the strengths of the book? To begin with, Wyatt, Marlowe, Chapman, Golding and Ben Jonson are all lavishly represented, as is proper. Many interesting lesser-knowns from the 17th and 18th centuries sport alongside their mightier contemporaries, and here the editor should be applauded for the thoroughness of his ...

Barriers of Silliness

J.I.M. Stewart, 1 July 1982

The Great Detectives: Seven Original Investigations 
by Julian Symons.
Orbis, 143 pp., £7.95, October 1981, 0 85613 362 0
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Critical Observations 
by Julian Symons.
Faber, 213 pp., £9.95, October 1981, 0 571 11688 4
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As I walked down New Grub Street: Memories of a Writing Life 
by Walter Allen.
Heinemann, 276 pp., £8.95, November 1981, 0 434 01829 5
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... an elderly private eye who may or may not be the original of Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe, and who recounts an ostensibly real-life gangster episode which brought Chandler and the archetypal Marlowe together. Similarly the investigation of the Ellery Queen biographical tangle leads into a little ‘sealed ...
... low, cross-court strokes – rather than hitting big winners. In literature, blood clots were Christopher Marlowe, violent, restless, brilliant, while the cancer would be Shakespeare, coming in many guises, dependable, sly, fully memorable. In painting, the blood clots would be Jackson Pollock, the cancer Barnett Newman. In Tory politics, Boris ...

Singing the Blues

Noël Annan, 22 April 1993

A History of Cambridge University. Vol. IV: 1870-1990 
by Christopher Brooke.
Cambridge, 652 pp., £50, December 1992, 9780521343503
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... Who better to be our guide to modern Cambridge than the Dixie Professor of Ecclesiastical History? Christopher Brooke was brought up in Cambridge, the son of the professor of medieval history and himself a post-war Apostle. He begins by whisking us round the colleges telling us what each was like in Victorian times and how the abolition of the religious Tests and the Royal Commission (1872) transformed Cambridge from being a provincial seminary and a federation of colleges into a university of faculties and departments where the dons could marry and no longer had to be clergymen ...
Issues of Death: Mortality and Identity in English Renaissance Tragedy 
by Michael Neill.
Oxford, 404 pp., £45, May 1997, 0 19 818386 0
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... The undercurrent of Faustian defiance in the face of extinction finally colours our view of Marlowe himself, who from time to time, like Ovid, deliberately fosters the irony that, in the depiction of death, the artist can achieve immortality. The rise of general interest in anatomy in the 16th century springs directly from experience of the plague, and ...

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